From intense hand-washing routines to terrifying and repetitive thoughts, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) are particularly challenging to a child and their loving family. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide in-depth, customized and practical solutions.
The Potential Consequences Of Untreated OCD In Kids
Sometimes, OCD is mild enough to be viewed as a passing phase and not a serious threat; however, if you're concerned your child's behavior is progressing or otherwise interfering with their daily routine, treatment is essential. A psychiatric evaluation will help to determine the level of challenge your family is facing and what the best course of action should be. Left untreated, obsessive-compulsive disorders often evolve into life-changing conditions that impede growth and overtake personalities, leading to a number of possible situations:
- Failing grades in school.
- Behavioral problems in school and at home.
- Becoming a social outcast, which may exacerbate the compulsions.
- Health complications like eating disorders, insomnia and chronic fatigue.
- Self-medicating (of the child) with alcohol and/or drugs.
- Progressive symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, withdrawal and additional psychological complications.
Your child (and you) need to understand what their current condition is and how to address it. While it's difficult to accept that something is wrong with your child, failure to act will most likely make everything much worse. OCD can completely overtake a person, making normal life, both in the home and out in school or society, next to impossible.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Approaches
Once a therapist or psychiatrist gets to know your child and their history well enough, they can design a custom behavioral therapy approach, dependent on your child's specific symptoms. CBT is an evidence-based form of treatment that directly addresses the need for thought control, a discipline that those with OCD are lacking, especially children. Generally, treatment unfolds according to patient progress, with CBT encompassing a few crucial components:
- ERP, or Exposure and Response Prevention, which will help your child and the therapist identify the thoughts that trigger OCD and then learn to control them.
- CT, or Cognitive Therapy, aids a patient in recognizing the obsessive thought patterns as they are produced in the brain, which normally lead to inappropriate actions and how to divert or change the thought patterns themselves into something more positive.
Cognitive behavioral therapy may be short or long-term, but kids usually need extra help in learning to understand and control their thoughts. Because OCD can branch off into so many facets of life, like being able to go outside, make rational decisions and withstand the stress of life, it needs to be nipped in the bud as early as possible, with treatment lasting as long as is necessary to defeat the personal demons that might otherwise haunt your child indefinitely.
Helping Your Child At Home
Beyond addressing your family's challenges in a psychiatric setting, there are additional ways to help your child at home and in their personal life:
- Be tactfully inquisitive (or politely nosy), to prevent hidden OCDs from becoming an issue.
- Manage the stress in your lives effectively, such as through yoga and other exercises or meditation.
- Practice the coping and resolution tactics recommended by your child's therapist together.
- Keep your child's school posted with necessary information, so they, too, can help your child manage feelings and compulsions.
- Take small steps, if needed, in helping your child adjust to the new ways of thinking, feeling and acting that will benefit them the most.
It's also important to update your child's therapist of things going on at home, school and other places, whether it's minor setbacks or major victories. Keeping yourself healthy, well-rested and relieved of stress prepares you to have the needed patience to move forward, too.
Help for your OCD child may be closer than you think. Don't bear the burden of this overwhelming condition on your own and recognize the need for outside help. Find a professional such as Linet Les through your local child psychiatric services or speak with your child's pediatrician today.